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Is It Time to Review Your Estate Planning?

You have done your Revocable Living Trust, your Durable Power of Attorney, and your Advance Health Care Directive. Your will, which coordinates with your living trust, is also in place. You may have done some tax planning. As much as you would like not to think about these documents anymore, you should. At least every two years, you should review your documents to make sure that they still reflect your wishes, your values, and your goals.

We are not stagnant in our views. We evolve. We develop new concerns. We may want to be exposed to new ways of looking at estate planning.

What are some of the issues you might think about in a review?

Are you comfortable with your choice of successor trustee? You might have named your oldest child or the most conveniently-located child as your successor trustee. Does this child understand the responsibilities that flow from being a "fiduciary"? Does this child have the time and inclination to serve? Serving as trustee when you are ill and after your death is a major, consuming task. Be sure you name a person who will accept and discharge the responsibilities.

Have the needs of your family members changed?

  • You leave everything to your children in equal shares, but one has become wealthy and one is in a profession that is not highly remunerative. Should you leave more to the needy child?
  • Have any family members experienced major health problems?
  • If a child or grandchild has become disabled (cannot work), have you thought about a Special Needs Trust to hold assets for the benefit of that child or grandchild? A simple direct bequest can cause this individual to lose any hope of becoming eligible for important public benefits that can provide monthly income and medical coverage.
  • Have you thought about an education trust for grandchildren?
  • Have you been creative in thinking about charitable giving? As an alternative to simple charitable gifts, which are wonderful, have you thought about establishing an "advice fund" at a community foundation so that your family fund would live on in perpetuity?
  • Have you thought about establishing a family foundation, which is much more accessible and manageable than you might imagine?
  • Have you looked at your estate planning documents in the context of today's evolving - and unpredictable - treatment of estate and gift taxes?
  • Have you considered a Family Protection Trust? This trust allows your child to protect inherited assets from creditors and from property division in the event of divorce.

These issues should be addressed and will reward your attention. Make sure that your documents are up to date, sufficiently sophisticated, and reflect your long-term values and goals. A review of your trust is not a difficult or costly process.

Note: This article provides information, it does not constitute legal advice.